January 8th, 2010

Antonio’s Anthology

By Donna Meidt

Antonio's PortraitSix years ago, I took possession of two large boxes which contained the papers of Antonio Nicola Pisano (1894-1979), my maternal grandfather. He came to America from Gasperina, a mountain village overlooking the Ionian Sea in Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy. He was sixteen years of age, and settled initially in the Queen Village neighborhood of Philadelphia. The portrait on the left was taken about 1915.  Antonio was a writer of poems and plays in Italian. He started a theater troupe called the Filodramatic Circle Gasperinese active between the First and Second World Wars in the neighborhood of 7th and Christian Streets. He was a storyteller and my babysitter. Among my earliest memories were sitting beneath this photo of his parents, Giuseppe and Maria Innocenza Voci Pisano.  Here he taught me the value of family history, and stressed the importance of remembering our ancestors. Thus, he passed on his interest and passion to me; leaving me with the task of having his story remembered.

Antonio's parentsGiuseppe and Maria Innocenza Voci Pisano

Illustrated below is a copy of one of his poems, “Pascua” written in the form of a cross to celebrate Easter. This is only one of many of a vast anthology that he left among the two large boxes. In addition to the poems was a playbill from 1931 of The Filodramatic Circle Gasperinese for “The Passion Play of Christ, for Monday evening, March 30, 1931, at 7:30 p.m at the church of St. M.M. Auditorium at 7th and Christian Streets, and a photo of part of the cast. According to family history he produced and directed this play for ten years somewhere between the 1920 and 1930s.

I discovered PhilaPlace, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, a multi-cultural project telling the story of how different immigrant groups lived in the various neighborhoods. I traveled twice to meet with staff and begin donating his original works.

I have become a member of the society. I hope to compile a complete anthology of his poems, and to use them to write his biography. To do so, I hope to continue my affiliation and interest in the PhilaPlace project and the endeavors of the staff of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Pascua“Pascua” (Easter), by Antonio Pisano

Playbill for "Passion of Christ"Playbill from 1931 presentation of the “Passion Play of  Christ”

Filodramatic CirclePortrait of the Filodramatic Circle Gasperinese, 1931

Editor’s note: Donna Meidt is a member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania who resides in Tempe, Arizona.  A South Jersey native, she is a former Coordinator of Educational Programs for the Camden County [New Jersey] Historical Society, and is currently researching and writing about her family’s roots in Calabria, Italy, South Philadelphia, and Camden. She has recently donated many of her family’s papers, including her grandfather’s poetry and plays, to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. You can read the story of her great-grandmother’s South Philadelphia boarding house on PhilaPlace.org. Donna can be reached at wmeidt@cox.net .

12 Responses to “Antonio’s Anthology”

  1. Congratulations Donna, on the wonderful legacy left to you by your grandfather. My only disappointment is that Antonio Nicola Pisano is no longer living. Our opera company brings artist together from throughout the world to create new Italian operas every summer in Citta’ della Pieve, Italy, based on Shakespeare. We have been doing this annually for the past 6 years. This summer’s opera will be “La Bisbetica Domata”. Finding an outstanding librettist has been the most difficult aspect of our project. How wonderful it would have been to have Mr. Pisano here to write one of our opera librettos! Thank you Donna for sharing your grandfather’s legacy. Hopefully one day we will meet!
    All the Best,
    Karen Lauria Saillant
    Artistic Director
    International Opera Theater

  2. giorgio galanti says:

    Very interesting the story ans the poet’s life. As director of education office at the Italian Consulate I would like keep in touch with Donna to have the possibility to read the poems, in Italian, at the Consulate

  3. Donna Meidt says:

    Thank you very much for your interest and compliments on my grandfather, Antonio Nicola Pisano. I would encourage you to visit the Pennsylvania Historical Society to review his plays and a small sample of his poetry. They are in the Pisano/Siciliano Family Collection. In the interim, please feel free to stay in touch with me. I am more than happy to answer any questions. If his poems are selected for a reading, I would most certainly like to be in attendance. I have many others I can share once you decide how you want to proceed according to your needs. They are varied in style and topic. Donna

  4. innocenzo says:

    Io stavo cercando di sapere sui Pisano di Gasperina.Da dove venivano.Ho trovato un Pisano,che credo sia stato un cugino di mio Padre Gregorio Pisano, figlo di Gregorio Pisano; ossia che mio nonno mi diceva di avere un fratello poeta.Mi sapresti dire qualche cosa su di questo Pisano se e’ il fratello di mio nonno?Grazie.
    Saverio Pisano

  5. Donna Meidt says:

    I fratelli d’Antonio morirono giovine. Ma credo che aveva cugini e tie che si chiamavano Gregorio. O il albero della famiglia in Gasperina. Un tio abitava in Argentina.
    Dove abita? Posso mandare il albero della famiglia sua si vuole.
    Erano molti artiste nella famiglia nostra e il mio nonno era uno di tanti.
    Il padre era Giuseppe figlio d’Antonio. Il mio nonno aveva solamente una sorella che si chiama Marianna. Andava a Roma.
    Voglio sapere piu di lei. Per piacere scrive piu. Credo che noi siamo cugine. Grazie, Donna

  6. R.M. Maciula says:

    Donna, I enjoyed very much your photos and narrative about your grandmother and grandfather. Your writing truly conveys the feeling of warmth and closeness that the family shared. You inspire me to start a similar project for my family.

  7. Gerrie Macrina says:

    Hello Donna, my husband, Vincent, and his family came from Gasperina when my husband was 10 and his sister was 14. It amazes me how many people are from Gasperina in Massachusetts and in Philadelphia. My husband has family in Philadelphia and we were there this past July. We visited Gasperina 2 years ago for the feasts and plan to return next summer, 2011. If you have not been there you should try to go. You feel the spirits of your family as you walk the narrow streets of this wonderful town. I wish you well with your endeavors.

  8. Donna Meidt says:

    Thank you very much for your interest in my family history and in their hometown. The Pisano and Siciliano families papers is now available for researchers at the Pennsylvania Historical Society at 1300 Locust St. I thought you might be interested in a notebook of Antonio’s handwritten poems in that collection in Box 1 Folder 11. Many of these poems describe the hometown and its feasts of which you expressed an interest. I agree that walking those streets is a wonderful experience. Donna

  9. saverio maria raspa says:

    I have the same your passion, family history, genealogic tree, and so on. I probably know one of your living relative: Antonio Pisano, a poet. I’ll let you know if he is really a relative of you.

  10. Donna Meidt says:

    Thank you for responding. Are you referring to my cousin Antonio Pisano from Milan and Gasperina? He is the first cousin to my grandfather, also Antonio Pisano. I went to Gasperina and met him personally.
    I would enjoy hearing a little more about you and your family history. The sister of my paternal grandmother married Gregorio Raspa.

  11. Jonathan Raspa says:

    Did this Gregorio Raspa have children? If so, was Antonio Raspa one of them?

  12. Donna Meidt says:

    He had two children, but Antonio was not one of them.

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